A couple of months ago, I blogged about a letter from the Department of Finance in which it addressed concerns regarding amendments to the Income Tax Act (the “ITA”) that have come into force as of January 1, 2016. The stated purpose of the letter was to confirm the Department of Finance’s understanding of the issues raised and to describe an option for responding to these issues. There was no promise that the option would be pursued or that any action would be taken.
However, on January 15, 2016, the Department of Finance released draft legislative proposals that would modify the income tax treatment of certain trusts and their beneficiaries. The legislative proposals, along with explanatory notes, can be found here.
Currently paragraph 104(13.4)(a) of the ITA provides that upon the death of a beneficiary of a spousal trust, the trust’s taxation year will be deemed to come to an end on the date of the individual’s death. Subsequently, according to paragraph 104(13.4)(b), all of the trust’s income for the year is deemed to have become payable to the lifetime beneficiary during the year, and thus must be included in computing the beneficiary’s income for their final taxation year. This has been raised as an issue due to paragraph 160(1.4) which makes the trust and the beneficiary jointly and severally liable for the portion of the beneficiary’s income tax payable as a result of including the income from the trust. As such, it is possible that the beneficiary could be responsible for the full income tax liability, to the benefit of the trust and the trust’s beneficiaries.
According to the draft legislation, paragraph 104(13.4)(b) is to be amended and 104(13.4)(b.1) is to be added, such that (b) does not apply to a trust unless all the requirements are met and the trust and the beneficiary’s graduated rate estate jointly elect that (b) apply. It would, therefore, be up to the trust and to the estate of the beneficiary to determine whether they wish the trust’s income to be included in the income of the beneficiary for their final taxation year.
There was also an issue raised with respect to the stranding of charitable tax credits. This situation could arise if a trust were to make a charitable donation after the beneficiary’s death. As the trust’s income for the year has to be included in the beneficiary’s income, consequently, the trust would have no income against which to deduct tax credits. Based on the draft legislation, as long as the beneficiary and the trust do not jointly elect for 104(13.4)(b) to apply, the trust’s income will be included in the trust’s tax return, and any charitable donation tax credits should be able to be deducted from that income.
The press release issued with the draft legislation stated that the Department of Finance had released the draft legislative proposals for consultation and welcomed interested parties to provide comments by February 15, 2016.
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The Honourable Susan E. Greer has been involved in the world of estate law for many years, as both a lawyer and as a recently retired Superior Court Justice. During that time, and particularly during her 23 years as a Superior Court Justice, she has observed a number of changes as she observes in this article for Advocate Daily.
Some of the changes discussed by The Honourable Ms. Greer are relevant to the practice of law generally. In particular, she mentions civility, and the fact that counsel have become less courteous over time, including in interactions with court staff, each other, and witnesses. She also refers to the increasing use of emails as exhibits to affidavits. In this regard, of note is the concern that many emails are “sent in haste, without careful consideration as to how they read or how they could be misinterpreted” as opposed to the thought that usually goes into the drafting of letters. These comments are applicable to lawyers generally, not solely the estates bar, and are important points to consider.
Specifically with respect to estate law, The Honourable Ms. Greer notes that there have been changes in several areas, including sibling rivalry increasingly being brought to the courts, and increasingly heavy scrutiny of jointly held assets. One particularly interesting development discussed in the article is the increase in will challenges commenced by children prior to the death of their parent. As noted by The Honourable Ms. Greer, this is not an issue unique to Ontario or Canada, citing a French case in which the daughter of Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oreal cosmetics company, successfully challenged the validity of her mother’s will, while her mother was still alive.
Relevant to many of the changes that have been seen in estates, according to The Honourable Ms. Greer, is the issue that the “greed factor has become more pronounced, causing bitter divisions in families that seem impossible to heal.” That being said, given that courts have moved away from awarding all costs of litigation to be paid from the estate, the possibility of being responsible for one’s own costs, as well as the costs of other parties, may serve as a disincentive for potential litigants with more frivolous claims that may be driven by greed.
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Today on Hull on Estates, Paul Trudelle and Doreen So discuss a selection of the Top Estate, Trust and Capacity Cases of 2015: A Year in Review
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Now that the 2016 year has begun, there are several amendments to the Income Tax Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 1 (5th Supp) (the “ITA”) that have come into force. Some of these amendments have been discussed on this blog before. Among these amendments is the introduction of the “qualified disability trust” (the “QDT”).
The requirements for a QDT can be found in s. 122(3) of the ITA, and are as follows:
i. At the end of the trust year, a QDT must be a testamentary trust that arose on and as a consequence of an individual’s death;
ii. The trust must be resident in Canada for the trust year; and
iii. The trust and the named beneficiary or beneficiaries must have made a joint election for the trust to be a QDT.
Section 122(3) now also includes requirements for the beneficiary of a QDT:
i. Section 118.3(1)(a) to (b) must apply to the beneficiary for the individual’s taxation year in which the trust year ends, meaning that the beneficiary must be eligible for the disability tax credit; and
ii. The beneficiary can only jointly elect for one trust to be a QDT.
If a trust meets the requirements for a QDT, it will not be subject to the new rules with respect to flat top rate taxation that are now applicable to testamentary trusts. This is an important qualification, because prior to the amendments that came into force January 1, 2016, all testamentary trusts were subject to graduated rates of taxation. Now, however, trusts will only have the benefit of the graduated rates for the first 36 months following the death of a testator, during which period they will be called “Graduated Rate Estates” (“GREs”). Therefore, the QDT has significant benefits with respect to taxation of trusts.
As noted above, however, the requirements for a QDT are far from simple. With respect to the disability tax credit, there are particular requirements and limitations for eligibility. The assessment of whether a particular individual will be eligible for the disability tax credit is done by a doctor, not a financial advisor, and it can be difficult to predict whether or not someone will qualify.
There are also some elements of the QDT which may raise planning challenges, including the limit of one QDT per beneficiary. For example, if the grandparents of a disabled grandchild have chosen to create a testamentary trust for the benefit of their grandchild, only one grandparent is able to have the trust qualify as a QDT. Furthermore, the joint election for the trust to be a QDT must be made each year, and each year the beneficiary must qualify for the disability tax credit. As such, the status of the trust may change from year to year, and must accordingly adapt to the changing application of the tax rules.
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In a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Holgate v Sheehan Estate, 2015 ONCA 717, the court was asked to consider an appeal from a motion for determination of an issue under Rule 21.01(1)(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The Rule 21 motion arose in the context of a trial with respect to the interpretation of the will and codicil of John Holgate, and particularly the meaning of the word “use”. The appeal also dealt with the trial judge’s jurisdiction to hear the mid-trial Rule 21 motion, but this blog will deal with the former issue.
Mr. Holgate had passed away and was survived by two sons from his first marriage (the “sons”) and his second wife, (“Mrs. Holgate”). Mr. Holgate’s will and codicil provided for a life interest in two trusts to Mrs. Holgate. Following Mrs. Holgate’s death, Mr. Holgate’s children were entitled to the remainder of the two trusts. The wording of the two trusts provided that the trust assets were to be held for “the sole use and benefit of my wife MAY HOLGATE during her lifetime”.
The sons brought an action against their father’s estate, Mrs. Holgate’s estate and Mrs. Holgate’s daughter personally, claiming that Mrs. Holgate’s life interest allowed her to use the money but not save it. They alleged that Mrs. Holgate had not only used trust assets, but had also saved money, thereby depleting the capital of the estate to their detriment and contrary to their father’s intention.
Three days into the trial, the trial judge invited counsel to bring a mid-trial motion either for determination of an issue or for directions in order to determine this critical issue with respect to the interpretation of the will and codicil, namely the meaning of the term “use”. Counsel agreed to bring a Rule 21 motion and asked whether the wording of the will and codicil precluded Mrs. Holgate from accumulating wealth from the trusts in her own name.
The trial judge concluded that:
- nothing in the will or codicil prevented Mrs. Holgate from saving and accumulating wealth;
- the language of the will came as close as possible to conferring an absolute gift on Mrs. Holgate; and
- neither of the trusts included any limitations on the use of the assets by Mrs. Holgate.
On appeal by the sons, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge’s interpretation, that the words and phrases used in the trusts indicate a clear intention on Mr. Holgate’s part to allow his wife unrestricted access to the funds. They also cited Dice v Dice Estate, 2012 ONCA 469, which held that “[t]he golden rule in interpreting wills is to give effect to the testator’s intention as ascertained from the language that was used”.
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This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia Angelini and Jonathon Kappy discuss issues involving minors and incapables. Specifically, they discuss accepting payment into court for the benefit of individuals under the age of majority as well as various statutes dealing with accepting payment into court.
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This week on Hull on Estates, Paul Trudelle and Holly LeValliant discuss beneficiary designations when a will is revoked. More specifically, they discuss a recent decision made by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice: Petch v. Kuivila, 2012 ONSC 6131 (CanLII).
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The recent Court of Appeal decision in Schwartz v. Schwartz, 2012 ONCA 239 (CanLII) discusses the issue of resulting trusts and their effect on transfers of property.
In Schwartz, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz transferred title to their matrimonial home to Mrs. Schwartz alone in 2000. In 2006, title was transferred to Mr. Schwatz alone. In divorce proceedings, the court found that Mr. Schwartz was holding title in the matrimonial home in trust for Mrs. Schwartz. A creditor of Mr. Schwartz’s appealed
The Court of Appeal addressed the issue of resulting trusts. The Court cited Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10 (CanLII) and its reasoning that a resulting trust may arise in the domestic context where there has been a gratuitous transfer of property. In such a case, the courts may find that a resulting trust exists, with the effect of returning the property to the person who gave it. “Thus, the beneficial interest ‘results’ (jumps back) to the true owner. When faced with such an issue, the court must consider evidence of the actual intention of the transferor. Although an intention to gift property trumps the presumption of resulting trust, the intention at the time of the transfer is a question of fact.
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal held that it was open to the motion judge to find that Ms. Schwartz did not intend to gift her interest in the property and therefore had an interest in the property, but remitted the matter to the motion judge to determine the extent of the interest.
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This week, Saman Jaffery and David Morgan Smith discuss the recent Supreme Court decision in Fundy Settlement v. Canada (a.k.a. St. Michael Trust Corp. or Garron Family Trust) which confirms that the “central management and control” test used to determine the residence of corporations also applies to the determination of the residence of trusts for tax purposes .
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Saman Jaffery – Click here for more information on Saman Jaffery.
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We hear a lot about fiduciary duty in the practice of wills and estates. But what is it exactly? According to this definition in Irwin law’s online dictionary, a fiduciary is “a person occupying a position of trust vis-à-vis another person”.
In the recent case of Hooper (Estate) v. Hooper, 2011 ONSC 4140, the court discusses the concept of fiduciary duty. In Hooper, the estate trustee, who did not defend the proceedings against him, placed himself in a fiduciary relationship with respect to not only the deceased, but also in relation to the other named beneficiaries.
The court commented that when a person in such a fiduciary position fails to pass accounts or otherwise account for his or her actions, he or she can be required to repay the amount unaccounted for to the estate. Breach of such a special relationship gives rise to wide array of equitable remedies. Such equitable remedies are always subject to the discretion of the court, and are designed to address not only fairness between the parties, but also the public concern about the maintenance of the integrity of fiduciary relationships.
In exercising its equitable discretion, the court is concerned not only with compensating a wronged plaintiff, but also with upholding the obligations of good faith and loyalty, which are the cornerstone of the concept of fiduciary duty.
The freedom of the fiduciary is limited by the nature of the obligation he or she undertakes, an obligation which “betokens loyalty, good faith and avoidance of a conflict of duty in self interest.” In short, equity is concerned not only to compensate the plaintiff, but to enforce the trust which is at its heart.
Fiduciary duties are clearly those which should never be entered into lightly or on an uninformed basis.
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.